We recently received this email from a student regarding writing her personal statement:
I have been working on my personal statement and I started out with the free flow writing. It worked out well at getting ideas but I feel my paper sounds egotistical, too ‘health’ related, doesn’t transition well, and kinda feels all over the place… I was first going to attempt to have a great opening and break up the essay on the characteristics I possess that I would demand from a physician. I have a story how I developed them and attempted to perfect them. All of my stories are original to me, but I don’t know if this is what every medical student feels/ experiences and I don’t want to be unoriginal to the reader.
This issue is something a lot of students definitely face during the process of writing personal statements and is probably an inevitable consequence of Steps 1 and 2 from our ‘Pwning the Personal Statement Part II’. What are you supposed to do now that you’ve collected what appear to be several incongruous stories?
Believe it or not, you’re on the right track. The next step is really going to come down to making good choices about the story you want to tell and how your examples tell that story coherently. This happens during the editing process and it doesn’t happen alone. We’re going to deal with the editing process in Part III of the Pwning the Personal Statement series (coming soon!), but for now, here are a few things you can quickly do to figure out whether you’re on the right track.
- In 2-3 sentences, briefly tell the best story you can about yourself and why you’ll make a great doctor. Be as flattering to yourself as you want; this isn’t going into your essay. Include all the key reasons that you would want someone else to know if they were to meet you.
- Identify any key points that aren’t covered in any of your examples and add them in.
- Read over your personal statement and decide which examples tell any of those key points you wrote about in Step 1. Eliminate any redundancies by taking out the weakest one (you will not need two examples showing the same thing in your essay) and eliminate any stories that don’t hit any of your key points. Save this as Draft 2 (you can always bring culled stories back to life later if you want).
- Repeat steps 1-3 in their entirety (what you wrote in Step 1 may change after you’ve rewritten your essay a few times). Go through at least 2 full cycles of this process.
- Give your essay to someone whose opinion you trust but who doesn’t know you very well personally. Have them read the essay and ask them two questions:
- Do they think what you wrote in Step 1 makes sense and is sufficient justification for admission to med school.
- Do they think the essay matches what you wrote in Step 1.
If you get a yes for both, you’re on the right track. If not, ask for specific feedback and go back to the drawing board.
Got your own questions you want answered? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may feature your question and response!